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Barriers to volunteering by newcomers in Wheatbelt towns in Western Australia

Paull, M.ORCID: 0000-0001-8613-2159 (2009) Barriers to volunteering by newcomers in Wheatbelt towns in Western Australia. Volunteering Wa and Edith Cowan University



Many organisations involving volunteers in regional towns have reported experiencing difficulties in maintaining their numbers of volunteers due, in part, to the changing demographics being experienced in regional areas across Australia. In Western Australia there is evidence that the volunteer rate for non-metropolitan areas has declined approximately 7% between 2000 and 2006 (FHCSIA, 2009). Populations across the non-metropolitan regions have not all declined, with areas such as the Pilbara and other mining regions experiencing a significant boom in recent times. Other areas, including those with agriculture as the focus, have experienced declining numbers, especially of young people. These changing demographics can have a significant effect on the ability of the community organisations to provide services, maintain the welfare, recreational and leisure activities in the region, and sustain the community development activities which assist in keeping towns operating.

In the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia there are variations in population which vary from town to town, with some places experiencing an influx of newcomers and others reporting noticeable declines. As has been discussed in the companion report (see Volunteering WA, 2009), the twin results of these population changes are the pressures on community organisations to sustain volunteering in order to provide local services. Emergency services such as the Bushfire Brigades and the St John Ambulance Service rely on increasingly diminishing numbers of volunteers, while at the same time having to cope with increasing levels of regulation and control. Services to the sick and elderly experience greater demands as the population ages, but they too are increasingly unable to meet those demands. Sporting and leisure organisations find it difficult to field and support teams or provide committees to run the organisations, and community events such as annual field days rely on the same group of volunteers to run the events every year.

Anecdotally, newcomers to town are said to be less and less willing to involve themselves in volunteer work and community organisations. It is the view of those involved in community development in the Wheatbelt region that in order to ensure the growth of strong, healthy communities, newly arrived residents in these towns can and need to be enticed into volunteering, and encouraged to stay, thus enhancing the community’s capacity to deliver volunteer emergency services and other desired community activities.

This component of the Better Connections research project has been to identify barriers which prevent newcomers from volunteering or from continuing to volunteer.

Item Type: Report
Publisher: Volunteering Wa and Edith Cowan University
Copyright: © Volunteering WA, May 2009
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